Refugees Fear For Safety In The Aftermath Of Cologne Sex Attacks

The refugees who risked their lives to flee their war-torn countries are now facing backlash for crimes committed by a few of their countrymen.

Following a week of social unrest and protests against the criminals who organized mass sexual assaults on the New Year’s Eve, a group of around 20 people attacked six Pakistanis and a Syrian on Sunday in Cologne, Germany.

The incident was disturbing, to say the least, but it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Authorities may not have caught all the perpetrators who sexually assaulted and robbed scores of women that night in various European cities, but witnesses’ description of the attackers as “Middle Eastern or North African” has fueled the anti-refugee sentiment across the nation.

The mass protests  initially staged to condemn the coordinated assaults  somehow turned into anti-foreigner and anti-Muslim demonstrations, sparking a new wave of fear among the asylum seekers.

“None of us like to go too far away [from the migrant shelter], we are worried about what could happen to us,” a 25-year-old refugee, Prince Berchie, told The Independent. “Anyone who looks foreign can be a target now.”

While what happened in Cologne, Hamburg, Stuttgart and several other cities during the early hours of Jan. 1 is extremely tragic and repugnant, the question is, why are the innocent asylum seekers paying the price of boorish behavior of some?

Shouldn’t the discussions be directed towards capturing the offenders, instead of how refugees are not welcome in Europe anymore?

“We are experiencing a new dimension of hatred,” said Almin Mazjek, head of Germany’s Muslim Council. “The far-right mob sees its prejudices confirmed and an opportunity to give free rein to hatred of Muslims and foreigners.”

Heiko Mass, the German justice minister, even warned of a potential anti-foreigner pogrom.

“There is no justification for blanket agitation against foreigners,” he explained, referring to the protests organized by the anti-Muslim Pegida movement.

It is evident that anti-migrant movements are capitalizing on these events, endangering the safety of thousands for their political means.

Where tough asylum policies, language barriers and prominent cultural differences already made it hard for Syrian and African refugees to assimilate into the society, the rise of such sentiments will only make the whole thing more nightmarish.

That said, the perpetrators behind the sexual and sadistic attacks must not only be condemned, but also punished. However, genuine and deserving men, women and children should not be demonized for the actions of those criminals. All refugees might not be saints, but they are not all evil either.

As the reports indicate, police so far positively identified 19 suspects. Among those, 10 arrived in Germany in 2015 along with 1 million other asylum seekers. The rest are illegal immigrants and unaccompanied juvenile refugees.

Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters

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